Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to Belgium

I took a little class last Thursday and Friday called "Welcome to Belgium" offered for free by the Army Community Service on S.H.A.P.E.

The first day we spent a few hours talking about customs, politics, culture shock etc and then we took the bus to the local mall and had a Belgian lunch. I had the plate du jour which was a ravioli thing with overcooked boneless chicken breasts. I also had a glass of wine (which by the way is cheaper than cola here).

Afterwards we were given a 45 minutes to shop and I was off like a shot, scouring their local wal-mart-type store for leather conditioner and pearl onions (both things I haven't found elsewhere). Mission accomplished and I made it through checkout without one word of English! I consider it a major achievement if I can shop local, pick out my items, buy and respond to the cashier properly with out saying "excusez moi, parlez vous anglais?" But I should confess that at least half the time I have to resort to English speaking.

We also toured a hospital in Mons to familiarize ourselves with the Emergency Room, lobby and customs at a Belgian hospital. If we need emergency care or hospitalization we will need to use a hospital on the economy. All in all, a good field trip!

On Friday, I dragged C-Bear along with me because we were taking the train up to Brussels to shop. I was thrilled to have a little hand-holding taking one of the numerous local trains and this trip didn't disappoint. One thing I discovered... expensive! 26 euro for C-Bear and I to get from Mons to Brussels (about $35). The trick is to travel on weekends when prices are slashed in half.

Once in Brussels, we hopped the Metro (underground subway) to our first destination... warehouse shopping Belgian-style. Crazy, dirty, smoky but CHEAP which is impossible to find around here. It was definitely not a place for men or the impatient. My-Army-Guy wouldn't have lasted five seconds in there. It was like a massive goodwill store (way dirtier, stinkier and more unorganized). The building had no signage on the outside or anything. There was not a tourist in sight and it definitely felt sort of underground and I came away feeling "in the know" as far as procuring clothes in Belgium at a massive discount.

C-Bear was not enchanted with that place. But I was. I bought 7 items of kid clothing for 35 euro.

Next we went to lunch as a group. Tasty... we had a taste of fried cheese followed by fish in lobster sauce with puffy potatoes served in swirly dollops on our plates. Total price per person 15 euro. Pricey but it was Brussels.

We toured the Grand Place in downtown Brussels and picked up some chocolates. I took some pictures. We saw the "Little Boy Peeing" statue. I'm sure it has a real name but that's what I call it. There were lace stores, chocolate stores, leather goods, flowers, scarves etc. everywhere.

C-Bear loved it! It is a fabulous feeling to get your teenage daughter to LOVE something she thought she was going to hate... big success. I'm still basking in the afterglow.

1 comment:

Mindy said...

Edith, What a fun day. I love those days in Europe when you find an absolute gem of a deal. Your description of that dirty store had my howling. Your words paint a great picture. I totally understand your wanting a partner when taking those trains, it can be so confusing... in some ways b/c it is so easy to hop on and off, you feel like you could easily end up in the wrong part of town, or just the wrong town.

What a great service to get a little inside tour of the city. That must be very helpful. One less thing to worry about.

Did you buy your new camera in Belgium? Looks like the pictures are really turning out well.

I had to laugh at your black I post... I nearly did the same. Scrubbing the bathroom floor, the bathroom door bounced back (unfinished coil of coax - ggrrrrr!) and the lever door knob poked a mean hole in my forehead. The bruise is now yellow - very attractive.

Thanks for keeping us posted of your adventures. I showed those FB pix to Ron and it took him a minute to recognize the porch. I think he has a lot of memory loss from back then, if you know what I mean. Take care. love, Mindy